What does it take to be a superhero? More than the title character has in Kick-Ass, a movie that (sort of) explores what happens when a regular kid tries putting on a mask and fighting crime.

Dave Liezwski (Aaron Johnson) is a very average teenager. Dave is invisible to the girls in his high school, he's bullied so often he hands over his money and phone without comment, and he hangs out with friends and chats about comic books. Dave wonders why no one's ever tried to be a super hero in real life, and after ordering a scuba suit online and "arming" himself with two sticks, he becomes Kick-Ass and sets out to fight crime.

Sadly, Kick-Ass lacks both powers and skills, and his first shot at stopping criminals almost kills him. As a result, though, he has steel on his bones and a lack of sensation from his nerves -- making him less a power and more of a more durable punching bag. When he saves someone from being mugged and it's filmed, Kick-Ass becomes a huge YouTube sensation and soon a pop culture phoenomena.

While Dave struggles to figure out what being a hero is, two professionals are doing what he does, far more skillfully and lethally. Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter Mindy (Chloe Moretz) want to take down mob leader Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), and they're both skilled killers. Inspired by Kick-Ass, they turn themselves into the superhero team Big Daddy and Hit-Girl.

When Big Daddy and Hit-Girl start killing Frank's criminals, Frank thinks Kick-Ass is responsible. Frank's teenage son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Please), who reads comic books, creates the fake superhero Red Mist so he can catch Kick-Ass and hand the hero over to his father. And on the romantic side, Dave starts up a friendship with beautiful Katie (Lyndsy Fonesca), who thinks he's gay.

The violence in Kick-Ass is ramped up to eleven, from shootings (including a night-vision view of a gunifght that feels exactly like a first-person videogame shooter) to beatings to limbs getting hacked off. The bulk of this ultra-violence comes from Hit-Girl, who in another movie would be an adorable little tyke but here bounces around like Yoda, curses up a storm, and kills and mains with gleeful abandon. Equally creepy is Nicolas Cage, whose Big Daddy is a loving parent training his little girl to be a killing machine. While a comedy, Kick-Ass is the most violent comic book adaption since Sin City.

Ultimately, Kick-Ass winds up becoming what it was spoofing: a superhero action movie. There is a lot of humor here (almost all of it dark), and Aaron Johnson does a good job as a regular nerd who's suddenly in way over his head. Most of the characters are pretty superficial, and the violence goes get tiring after a while. Still, Kick-Ass is entertaining, and while it may fall in love with itself this movie is a worthy entry in the comic superhero genre.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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